This is What We Came For: The Final Chapter
Before we cover what happened next to Cave Lion, who we left bogged in Nolan’s Brook, left front tire spinning in the sand, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on how lucky we feel to have been able to make the trip to Australia’s tip.
If you haven’t read parts 1-4, you may want to take a look before moving forward:
Our trip up to Cape York was the kind of adventure we will remember for a lifetime. While we couldn’t have imagined all the details in exactly the way they unfolded, this was exactly the experience we envisioned when we decided to pack up our apartment in New York, and set out to the other side of the world. There was adventure, adversity, friendship, and the beginning of building a family in love with the outdoors and all it has to offer.
I can still remember looking at pictures of this 4WD trip with Miranda from the couch in our apartment in Brooklyn and dreaming of doing this ourselves. We are thrilled to report this dream was eve
rything we hoped! We all had an incredible time exploring the outdoors with our children, swimming in fresh creeks, learning about new animals, and watching them become comfortable in nature. Lake and Finn have mostly been raised mostly in a concrete jungle, calling Brooklyn, NY home for the first four years of their life. Seeing them grow to love the outdoors during our travels in Australia and sharing that transformation has been one of the sweetest things we’ve ever experienced.
One detail I didn’t quite imagine was getting stuck in Nolan’s Brook. I suppose it was inevitable. We had taken a few more calculated risks than normal, and with each crossing after Mistake Creek we were encountering tougher obstacles. A nick to the camper here, a sharp descent there, scraping the bottom of the tow bar a tad. All very minor, but as I got behind the wheel before Nolan’s I remember thinking to myself, “OK. Just one more crossing and we have really done this! Just one more!”
But Nolan’s has a way of being trickier than it looks. Sure, it was deep, but we had been through deep water before and the Cruiser never had any real trouble. We had added a safari snorkel to Cave Lion to protect the engine, but I also added a tarp covering for extra protection. Regretfully I left the tires at 20 psi, instead of lowering then to 15 – still low, but not low enough for the sandy bottom of Nolan’s with a trailer in tow, apparently. Just to be safe, I picked up all the kids books and toys off the floor, rolled down a window. I am extremely lucky I did this because I never would have heard the end of it the boys’ beloved Thomas and Percy pillows were waterlogged!
I put the car in low second gear and drove into Nolan’s. Everything started off great. I made it through the deepest part alright and had a nice bow wave and seemingly consistent momentum, but then, suddenly it wasn’t alright. Horror of horrors! The momentum was gone, and I was stuck. When I realized this, my heart sank. I thought back to anything I had learned before – don’t dig a deeper hole, don’t let water get in the engine. But how…My front left tire was just spinning, and I figured giving it more gas would only make it worse, so I tried backing up and picking a different spot. I was able to back up, amazingly, but apparently I didn’t change course enough, so when I tried to move forward again-I was still bogged! Rats! I knew enough not to turn off the engine, which would have made us dead car number 61 on the Tele, and confirmed that with our friends, who sprang into action, with Leif towing us out of the bog with his Hi-Lux. Cameron made sure the rope was secure, and Leif pulled us forward. It worked straightaway and Cave Lion drove out, freed from the bog before the kids could cry! I felt a wave of relief- she still drove -less than 3 minutes in the water. Hooray!
But the hoorays were a bit premature. After letting water out of the car we decided to park it and check on the camper. The camper was fine – well done, Cub – but the car would not start. Uh oh….Miranda and I then proceeded to be the incredible beneficiaries of Australian hospitality again. As Finn would put it, Australians will “never let a matey down”
Leif, Craig, and Cameron examined, diagnosed (diagnosis: wet fuse box), and cured Cave Lion over the next 24 hours…
The curing involved tedious and methodical work of opening up the car – think removing the glove compartment and all the interior side paneling – and drying the inside of the car’s electrics on the passenger side (that’s the front left in Australia). In one funny moment, our mates turned to Miranda and asked, ” I don’t suppose you are the type of woman who carries a 12 volt hair dryer with you on camping trips, are you?” Umm, no. They got her running that day, which was celebrated with much rejoicing and XXXX Gold, but had to do the whole process over again the next morning, at 4-5 hours per treatment. Truly heroic friendship. Talk about new mates saving my American bacon!
That night we all reflected on our journey and had a great dinner where Miranda made chili and corn bread, and we sat by the fire together. After Cave Lion got going the next day we headed to Punsand Bay to camp and drove a short but surprisingly challenging 4WD track to the northernmost tip of the continent the next morning!
I think this was the first time I have ever been to the northernmost part of a continent, and to do it after such an incredible journey really had the feeling of a great accomplishment! From New York to Cape York in two months. We did it!